Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Greetings from Washington, DC

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

It’s been a busy week. I have a few more hours to spend in sunny Washington, DC before I head back to the Bay Area. Lots of interesting content to digest, and a long list of people to follow up with.

Both South By Southwest Interactive as well as the Politics Online Conference 2007 were worth going, and I’ll try to be back next year.

Using Twitter extensively at SXSW was a fun experiment. To me, it was yet another glimpse into the future when everybody’s location will be a known fact at any given time more or less and where it will seem perfectly normal to make use of that information for the purpose of social interaction.

Say farewell to the Startupgermany blog

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Startupgermany has been a blog experiment I started almost a year ago. I wanted to dig into some of the issues and challenges related to “the future made in Germany” (e.g. education, economic growth, unemployment, social security, demographic changes, immigration, innovation, our place in Europe etc.), and how we Germans, as a society, manage to address them (or not, depending on how pessimistic you are):

  • How do we want to live in the future?
  • What do we need to do in order to get there?
  • What are our strenghts, where do we need to get better, and what can we learn from others?

While I’m still very much interested in these questions (in fact, I believe they are quite essential), I have found that the blog has not been the right way to approach them. At least not the way I set it up. That and the fact that I have spent more time on other things over recent months has led to the blog’s being silent pretty much since August 2006.

So, time to bid this blog farewell. It will shut down some time over the next few weeks probably. I may have already found someone with a successor project, which I’m sure will make much better use of the domain.

Dinosaur flatulence

Friday, February 9th, 2007

Dana Rohrabacher, Republican member of the United States House of Representatives representing California’s 46th congressional district, in his rebuttal to the testimony of Susan Solomon, co-chairwoman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and three of her colleagues and co-authors before the House Science & Technology Committee in today’s Hearing on the State of Climate Change, explaining the findings of their recently issued Climate Change report (IPCC Fourth Assessment Report).

Sure, pre-historic changes in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere may have had natural causes, so why not this time? Except, wait, dinosaurs aren’t around anymore…

Rohrabacher kept bringing up the question of what percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is regularly caused by humans (he says 10 percent). Well, as far as I know that’s not the point. The point is that the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased about 40 percent over the last century and is now higher than it ever has been over the last 600,000 years. Oh, and according to an overwhelming majority of scientists that change is largely due to emissions caused by — you guessed it — us.

So, I want to see his list of “hundreds of scientists who honestly disagree” with the findings of the IPCC (not that global warming isn’t happening, but whether or not it’s caused by humans).

Interesting to see, though, how many of of the Republicans on the committee seemed to overall support the findings of the panel.

Global warming: The 2010 Imperative

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

Join The 2010 Imperative: Global Emergency Teach-In

THE 2010 IMPERATIVE
To successfully impact global warming and world resource depletion, it is imperative that ecological literacy become a central tenet of design education. Yet today, the interdependent relationship between ecology and design is virtually absent in many professional curricula. To meet the immediate and future challenges facing our professions, a major transformation of the academic design community must begin today. To accomplish this, The 2010 Imperative calls upon this community to adopt the following:

Beginning in 2007, add to all design studio problems that:
“the design engage the environment in a way that dramatically reduces or eliminates the need for fossil fuel.”

By 2010, achieve complete ecological literacy in design education, including:

  • design / studio
  • history / theory
  • materials / technology
  • structures / construction
  • professional practice / ethics

By 2010, achieve a carbon-neutral design school campus by:

  • implementing sustainable design strategies
  • generating on-site renewable power
  • purchasing green renewable energy and/or certified renewable energy credits (REC’s, Green Tags), 20% maximum.

Global warming: How many excuses are there to do nothing?

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

Two overall disappointing articles on global warming today.

Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post op-ed: Global Warming and Hot Air

Anyone who honestly examines global energy trends must reach these harsh conclusions. In 2004, world emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2, the main greenhouse gas) totaled 26 billion metric tons. Under plausible economic and population assumptions, CO2emissions will grow to 40 billion tons by 2030, projects the International Energy Agency. About three-quarters of the increase is forecast to come from developing countries, two-fifths from China alone. The IEA expects China to pass the United States as the largest source of carbon dioxide by 2009.

Poor countries won’t sacrifice economic growth — lowering poverty, fostering political stability — to placate the rich world’s global warming fears. Why should they? On a per-person basis, their carbon dioxide emissions are only about one-fifth the level of rich countries. In Africa, less than 40 percent of the population even has electricity.

Nor will existing technologies, aggressively deployed, rescue us. The IEA studied an “alternative scenario” that simulated the effect of 1,400 policies to reduce fossil fuel use. Fuel economy for new U.S. vehicles was assumed to increase 30 percent by 2030; the global share of energy from “renewables” (solar, wind, hydropower, biomass) would quadruple, to 8 percent. The result: by 2030, annual carbon dioxide emissions would rise 31 percent instead of 55 percent. The concentration levels of emissions in the atmosphere (which presumably cause warming) would rise.

Russell Roberts, Cafe Hayek: The political economy of global warming

The final reason we’re not going to do anything about global warming is because the Chinese aren’t going to do anything about global warming. If the Chinese don’t do anything, our incentive is very small. We will have to take a big hit in standard of living to make up for the surge in the Chinese pollution that’s coming. And I don’t think the Chinese are going to do anything to reduce their march toward modernity.

A final thought: the experts on global warming bear little cost for making overly pessimistic predictions about the world in 2100. So they have an incentive to make overly pessimistic predictions.

True, their reputations will be harmed. But right now they are all in the same boat. You don’t look foolish predicting that Florida is going to disappear if almost everyone else with glowing credentials makes the same argument. So I’m a little skeptical of their pessimism given that the costs of pessimism is low and benefits in the form of being on the good side of the funding angels is high. But they could be right. Maybe the earth is headed toward a fiery end. But if I’m right about the politics, then we’ll get to find out if the experts are right to be pessimistic. We’ll find out, not because we’ll all be alive in 2100, though many of us could be, but because we’re going to get a lot more data in the next decade or two to see if the current pessimism is justified. So we’ll talk again in 2020 and see whether the scientific consensus is as dire or direr than it is now.

I wonder. Is that really all we got? Specifically, is that all America got? The same America that put the first man on the moon? The same America that — and I still believe this — could achieve practically anything as long as they jumped in with both feet? The America that believes everything is possible, with its trackrecord of overcoming even the biggest challenges — political, scientific, and economic?

Instead what I hear is excuses, excuses, excuses.

And that is disappointing.

Clinton on Yahoo! Answers

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

The San Jose Mercury News ran this story yesterday: Sen. Clinton adds new twist to Web campaigns

Sen. Hillary Clinton signaled that hers would be an Internet-savvy presidential campaign by announcing her candidacy with a video posted on her Web site and e-mails to supporters. Throughout the week, she has been hosting live video chats. And on Thursday, Clinton held her first townhall meeting in cyberspace.

Clinton, a New York Democrat, used the Yahoo Answers service to ask voters: “Based on your own family’s experience, what do you think we should do to improve health care in America?”

By 5 p.m., Clinton had gotten more than 33,000 answers, making her question the second-most popular in the history of Yahoo Answers. Clinton is trumped by Oprah, who received 37,000 answers to the question: “If you were given $1,000 to change the life of a perfect stranger, what would you do?”

You can see her question her (currently at 36,033 answers and counting): Based on your own family’s experience, what do you think we should do to improve health care in America?

A random glance at some of the top-ranked answers she’s received so far suggests that people are actually responding, making suggestings, sharing their stories.

I think this tells you a number of things:

  • It’s not simply about blogs (or bloggers, for that matter — inviting a few bloggers into your campaign ain’t gonna win you the Presidency).
  • It’s too early to tell who among the candidates really gets it.
  • Looks like at least someone in the Clinton campaign has a clue (who knew?).
  • Health care will be a big issue in ‘08 (some say it will be the issue).

PoliticsBlog agrees: On the Web, Clinton Leads the Pack

And CBS News has this: Meet Hillary 2.0

Clinton entered the presidential race by posting a Web video. And to run its Web operation, her campaign scooped up at least four political bloggers, including Peter Daou, who worked on Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and blogs for Salon and the Huffington Post.

“Internet and technology has become an integral part of politics, and it is a great way for Sen. Clinton to have a conversation with people,” Daou, the campaign’s Internet director, told CBSNews.com. “It is a wonderful democratic medium that allows people to connect with each other and with the campaign.”

The Hillary for President blog is still getting up and running, pending the end of a contest to “write the very first guest post.” According to Daou, thousands of submissions have been received.

Nobody can know for sure how serious Clinton really is about conversation, but according to Wikipedia during her 1999/2000 US Senate campaign she did just that (emphasis mine):

While Clinton had a solid base of support in New York City, candidates and observers expected the race to be decided in upstate New York where 45 percent of the state’s voters live. During the campaign, Clinton vowed to improve the economic picture in upstate New York, promising that her plan would deliver 200,000 New York jobs over six years. Her plan included specific tax credits with the purpose of rewarding job creation and encouraging business investment, especially in the high-tech sector. She called for targeted personal tax cuts for college tuition and long-term care. Clinton began her campaign by visiting every county in the state, in a “listening tour” of small-group settings. During the race, she spent considerable time in traditionally Republican upstate regions.

Listening. What can I say…

Via Blog the Campaign in 08: Hillary Clinton Asks, Yahoo Answers: It’s Healthcare, Stupid

Looks like John Kerry won’t run in ‘08

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

CNN reports John Kerry won’t be running for President in 2008: Source: Kerry decides against 2008 presidential run
No news on his blog yet.

Politicopia

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

From the Beehive State comes another wiki project that aims at bridging the gap between citizens and people in office:

Politicopia gives people a solid handle on the Utah Legislature. Users create summaries of bills, pro and con arguments, comments, links, and more. For example, check out these pages:

Payday Lending
Vouchers for Private School Tuition
In-State Tuition for Illegal Aliens

Help Wanted. Anyone can edit or create a page. To discourage trolls and spammers, registration is required. This is an experiment in open democracy.

On the pro and con arguments, please stick to your side. If you don’t like the other side’s argument, rebut it on the other side of the ledger or tear it apart in the comments.

Be cool.

This is in some ways similar to Campaigns Wikia (which doesn’t seem to be very active at this point, as far as I can tell).

One challenge I see with a pure wiki approach in this context is the fact that in order for participants to contribute they must make edits. And while that is ok when collaboratively writing a document, it does not scale well when it comes to any type of polling or voting.

Secondly, the unstructured nature of the data makes filtering, aggregation, or visualization — in short, anything that helps with the consumption of large amounts of data — very difficult.

Via Personal Democracy Forum: The Revolution Will Be Wikified

Election 2008: What’s the winning technology stack?

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

Tim O’Brien has a great post: 2008 Presidential Technology Race: Urchin, Online Video, Linux, Apache

Linux and Apache are Presidential Material

The first thing to notice is that a majority of the field is using Open Source - Linux and Apache are presidential technologies. It’s also interesting that the agreed upon front-runners are both using ASP.NET, what does that say about the relative cost of implementing ASP.NET (both McCain and Clinton are ahead in fundraising, but you wouldn’t necessarily say that the Brownback campaign is flush with funds). Obama wins the award for Web 2.0 simplicity, Edwards wins the prize for compelling design and innovation, and Vilsack and Kucinich are tied for the least polish. I was surprised, I wouldn’t have thought that Biden was a Zope kind of guy, but I also wouldn’t have guessed that the most conservative candidate to date (Romney) would be running a J2EE site. I didn’t get a sense of excitement from the Dodd, Biden, or Brownback sites even though they all appear to be professionally designed.

One thing that’s missing from the study is the degree of RSSification of the various sites: blogs posts, comments, events, events in my zip code, videos, podcasts, press releases etc. — My guess is more people will want to subscribe to those over the coming 22 or so months.

Anyway, we can expect lots of good things come out of this election cycle.

Bill Richardson is running for President

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

Who is Bill Richardson?

William Blaine “Bill” Richardson (born November 15, 1947) is an American politician, a member of the Democratic Party, and a 2008 candidate for President of the United States. He has served as a Congressman, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, and U.S. Secretary of Energy; he is presently the Governor of New Mexico. He was also chairman of the 2004 Democratic National Convention that nominated John Kerry for the presidency.

Richardson announced today

… the formation of a Presidential campaign exploratory committee, with the clear intention of seeking the Democratic nomination for President in 2008.

While his official campaign site does have a Blog section, it is one that doesn’t let you subscribe to any RSS feeds.  Note also, that the announcement itself seems to not have been worth a blog entry.  On the other hand, folks are being offered to “Join our grassroots campaign online and connect with supporters in your neighborhood and across the country.” (the Richardson campaign is present on MySpace, PartyBuilder, Facebook, YouTube, Zanby, and Flickr).